Location: 57 Haymarket
Currently Showing: The Phantom of the Opera
Access: Piccadilly Circus
Stage Door: Charles II Street, turn left out of the main entrance
Ownership: Really Useful Theatre Group
Social Media: Facebook
In 1703, John Vanbrugh, following the 1695 break-up of the United Company, spotting an opportunity, acquired a former stable yard to build a theatre on. The building of the theatre was delayed because of the need to purchase frontage. Vanbrugh received authority from Queen Anne to form a Company of Comedians and the theatre opened on 9th April 1705 as the Queen’s Theatre.
The first production performed at this venue, and also the first Italian opera ever performed in London, was Gli amori d’Ergasto (The Lovers of Ergasto). This opera and following productions were unsuccessful. Vanbrugh bought out his partners and the actors reopened the theatre as the Lincoln’s Inn Fields’ Theatre, with productions with spoken dialogue and little music. However, taste among the rich of society for Italian opera was growing and the theatre dedicated itself to this.
Due to his involvement in the construction of Blenheim Palace, Vanbrugh’s management of the theatre was compromised and, on 7th May 1707, he sold the lease for fourteen years to Owen Swiny.
George Frideric Handel produced his English debut, Rinaldo, at this theatre and this was the first Italian opera to be composed specifically for a London stage. This was a successful piece although the theatre was losing money. Swiny fled the country to escape his creditors and John James Heidegger took over the management. He formed a ‘Royal Academy of Music’, with many sponsors, including the Prince of Wales, to finance Handel’s productions.
Following the accession of George I in 1714, the theatre was renamed the King’s Theatre and continued to be a venue for operas. In 1778, the lease for the theatre was transferred to Thomas Harris, the stage manager of Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, a playwright. They paid for remodelling, however, this cost wasn’t covered by box office revenue and the partnership dissolved. Sheridan, after buying his partner out, took on a mortgage of the theatre and soon became bankrupt.
The financial affairs of the theatre fell on lawyer William Taylor, who paid for the remodel of the theatre and was thereafter arrested by his creditors. Following years of litigation, financial difficulties and changes in management, the theatre burned down during rehearsals.
The theatre as we know it today was the fourth theatre built on the site. It opened in 1897. Her Majesty’s Theatre history is filled with financial issues, changes in management and destruction.
Her Majesty’s Theatre is located on Haymarket, which is a short distance from Piccadilly Circus. The theatre’s dress circle bar opens around an hour before the show. This bar is small but less crowded than the stalls bar which is downstairs from the box office (street level). The stalls bar is very crowded before the auditorium opens and at the interval.
Our favourite restaurants nearby are:
- Assagetti – Haymarket, Italian, limited menu
- Planet Hollywood – Haymarket, wide menu
- Prezzo – Italian, chain, vouchers available
- Getti – Jermyn Street, Italian, pizza, pasta, reasonable price
- The Terrace, Le Meridien Hotel – Piccadilly, British cuisine, expensive
The premium seats at this theatre, although expensive, are worth it as they provide the best perspective for the breath-taking chandelier swing at the beginning of the show.
There are two central aisles (Row G is the last full row) in the stalls. Seating further back is cheaper. To get the best view for the lower price, book seats on one of the centre aisles or the centre block of seats.
The ends of row (seats such as G1 and G28) are very good but do not provide a great view of the chandelier and it is better to be further back and more central.
Where to buy tickets
The best place to buy tickets for Phantom of the Opera is SeeTickets. From this company you will buy tickets at face value. There are often good deals available from other ticket companies, especially if you book in advance. Always look at SeeTickets first to set a base price.